Lerwick July 10th 2011
John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
Gibt es Gott?
My neighbour at university, A german lecturer in English constantly asked me this question
Is there God? Who is God? Where is God?
All of us I suspect struggle from time to time with the fact or theory of God, and before I get much further on, don’t get too excited because I am only sharing some of my current thoughts, the struggle continues!
How can God be everywhere? How can God know what we are thinking/doing/feeling? How does God know there are thousands dying in Somalia? Does God know there are thousands dying in Somalia, and if he does why does he do nothing about it? Does God know we read the Bible the other week? The questions could be endless.
Some things I suspect are too big to try and comprehend all at once, even for our advanced knowledge and skill. We cannot run the question through Google and choose the answer we easily like.
Paul may be problematic for many people. He writes in code it seems, or is it that he just rambles! He appears to be a male chavenist too!
But he was a thinker and someone who obviously helped many people understand God a little more. He believed that he learnt more about God by looking at Jesus. His letters are littered by references such as “In Christ we are a new creation” “there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ” and again from today’s epistle, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him”
However you take it Paul was “Jesus centered”.
John Taylor (retired bishop of St Albans and a lovely man to boot!) wrote an important book some years ago now called “The Christlike God” Here he expounds the suggestion that to understand God more we should look at Jesus, there is nothing about God that is not shown in Christ … he suggests. Now however we may take it and where we take this suggestion there seems some mileage as far as I am concerned in doing just that.
As the old hymn goes “turn your eyes upon Jesus”.
Francis of Assisi did this and look where that led him! Mother Theresa did this and see again the change..
Paul did it, perhaps reluctantly at first, but again see what difference it made to his Jewish understanding of God.
Jesus taught his disciples to see God as a someone close and intimate, even as Abba. He helped them to see that God in their midst was more than just keeping law. He taught them about God through stories and actions. He showed them how to love recklessly, by doing it himself. He encourages us today in the same way.
Jesus helped his followers to become full and whole people even when society had spurned them or cut them off. He helped people feel that they mattered and were loved.
Even after he was horribly crucified the effects of this man of Nazareth went on and on.
Whatever this leads us onto is “of God” when we learn more about our own humanity and how we resonate with a living God that is beyond our knowledge.
We can reach out and touch the elephant.
If there were a huge elephant in the room today, what part do you think you would be holding onto?